(The Root) — Everyone knew that 2012's Made in America Festival would be great. It was curated by rapper and business mogul JayZ, who promised to bring more than 30 of music's best acts to Philadelphia during Labor Day weekend of 2012, the music festival's inaugural year. Attendees were allowed to enter the highly guarded "minimetropolis" now known as MIA only after going through security checks. Once they were inside the festival, event staff provided maps and suggested downloading the MIA app to help navigate the festival (which encompassed the better half of 10 city blocks).
The atmosphere was reminiscent of a modern-day Woodstock (at least, it was reminiscent of what I've heard about Woodstock). Close to 50,000 people wandered from stage to stage to experience some of the best live performances from their favorite artists.
The eclectic lineup highlighted almost every genre. Acts included Latin sensation Prince Royce, rappers from Maybach Music Group and Philadelphia native Jay Electronica, who decided to exit the stage via the crowd. Janelle Monáe, who is known to put on a great performance, did not disappoint, and soul singer D'Angelo exceeded many expectations (despite his decision not to perform "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" sans clothes, as he did in the song's video).
Jay Z headlined day 1, putting on an awesome show, complete with appearances from President Barack Obama (via a prerecorded video) and Philly natives Freeway and Neef (former members of the now dissolved Roc-A-Fella Records family). Jay Z later left the stage while Kanye West and members of his GOOD music group (Common, 2 Chainz, Big Sean and Pusha T) performed.
Day 2 included performances from Philly's own Jill Scott and Eve. And Rev. Run, during a set by Run DMC, shocked the crowd by letting loose with profanity. Pearl Jam closed the festival, but not before Jay-Z took the stage once more to perform "99 Problems" with the band.
When attendees weren't watching a performance, they were most likely standing in line. Despite numerous food vendors, portable toilets, carnival games and more, there always seemed to be a line. But festival planners did score big points by anticipating the need to recharge cellphones and offering three charging stations, as well as cooling stations for those who couldn't stand the heat.
With the first festival such a resounding success, Jay-Z and Budweiser have put together a lineup for this Labor Day that looks as exciting as last year's, with Beyoncé and Nine Inch Nails set to headline (other artists scheduled to perform include Public Enemy, Calvin Harris, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Kendrick Lamar, Miguel, A$AP Rocky & Schoolboy Q and Emeli Sandé).
The two-day event will provide plenty of activities, but if you're looking for something to do beyond the festival's gates, here are a few suggestions:
Still need a place to stay? The Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel (201 N. 17th St.) is ideal. Not only is it possibly the closest hotel you can get to the Made in America Festival at this point, but with rooms starting at just $149 a night, it's also one of the most affordable hotels in Center City Philadelphia. The Sheraton Downtown is just two blocks from the Pennsylvania Convention Center and within walking distance of Love Park, the Franklin Institute and the Philadelphia Museum of Art — as well as great restaurants and Center City nightlife.
If MIA 2013 is anything like last year's event, then you will leave feeling that you have experienced the best in arts, culture, music and food that Philadelphia has to offer. But if you can't bear to stand in another line for food and are looking for a different, and still awesome, cultural experience, then Marrakesh (517 S. Leithgow St.) is the place to go. Most people will suggest that you try a cheesesteak when in Philly, but there are other food gems in the city. Hidden away (seriously, you have to knock to get in) a few blocks away from South Street, this Moroccan restaurant is a must-try! An intimate spot with excellent food for a low price, Marrakesh provides the ultimate dining experience, complete with six full courses and belly dancers. Reservations are highly recommended.
Since you'll be on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the festival, visiting one of Philly's awesome museums is a must. Whether you prefer to run up the "Rocky Steps" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway) or visit the Franklin Institute (222 N. 20th St.) and catch a film at the Imax theater, you'll find something to your liking. (If you opt for the art museum, be sure to go the day before or after MIA, since the entrances to the museum will be inaccessible during the festival.)
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Kiarra Solomon is a Philadelphia-based writer. Follow her on Twitter.